Filed under: Instrumental
The Guzheng, and the Guqin, are both descended from the ancient Chinese “Se”, the archetype of all Asian zithers. The instrument spread throughout Asia, carrying it’s pentatonic scale and wobbly vibrato wherever it went. More than the 2000 years old, the Guzheng and it’s relatives have undergone constant modification in terms of construction and number of strings.
One of the main differences between the Guzheng and the Guqin is that Guzheng, like most other Asian zithers, has movable bridges. This allows the player to create the characteristic vibrato by plucking the string with one hand and pressing on the same string but on the other side of the bridge thereby bending the pitch of the note.
Some other Asian zithers, past and present:
Japan: KOTO, WAGON, JUSHICHIGEN, NIJUGEN, SANJUGEN, ZOKUSO, SUMAGOTO
Korean: GAYAGEUM, KOMUNGO, AJAENG
Vietnam: DAN TRANH, DAN THAP LUC
Here’s a Guzheng piece on the Zhonggou Changpian label, probably from the 1940′s. This label featured a wide array of Chinese music styles, from Folk to Classical to Opera. Interestingly, this label, and the related Art Tune, seem to have been the first to seriously record Chinese music other than opera. The labels I’ve been featuring so far recorded Opera almost exclusively.
Even so, I’ve heard very few Guzheng solos on 78 rpm. This one is titled “Fang Zhi Mang” (Busy with Weaving) and was the only Guzheng piece by composer Liu Tian-Yi, a Cantonese composer and Gaohu player. Here he is playing his own composition.
Special thanks to Bei Bei He, a GuZheng player and teacher in southern California (www.beibeizheng.com) and Hong Wang for their help translating and information about Liu Tian-Yi.
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